Continuity Amidst Change

April 1, 2011
There is an ancient saying that a river changes constantly, yet it doesn’t change. This saying is appropriate for Automation World these days. The team that developed and produced the magazine held together for almost eight years. This group of professionals developed a magazine and Web site that has come to lead the industry. Change happens, but the magazine continues to flow.

Last September, we lost our founder and publisher, Dave Harvey.  Jim Chrzan was then named our second publisher. He had been associate publisher of Packaging World and publisher of Health Care Packaging at Summit, and was instrumental in forming Packaging World’s coverage of machine automation. Then, Jane Gerold, who plucked me out of the factories and plants in 1997 and became my first mentor in publishing, decided to pursue some other interests and recently left the company.

Wes Iversen has now decided the time is right for retirement. This is his last issue as Automation World’s managing editor. In many ways, the quality of this magazine is the result of his knowledge, experience and guidance. He was my perfect complement. I know the industry and technologies, but he knows how to put out a quality magazine. There can’t be anyone who knows the “AP Stylebook” better than he. And he knows just how to turn the perfect phrase.

I will sincerely miss Wes, but I’m proud to announce that we have found a suitable replacement. Renee Robbins Bassett joined Automation World as managing editor as of March 21. Renee is well-known in the automation and controls space, having spent the last four years at “Control Engineering” as managing editor, editorial director and senior writer. Prior to that, she had six years’ experience at Putman Media as editor in chief of “A-B Journal,” along with other editorial assignments. She has many years’ experience covering technology and manufacturing.

The other two original members of the team, Jim Powers in ad sales account management and Mike Bedenian, who is art director, are still here. Plus, the team has grown with the addition of Grant Gerke as digital managing editor and Glen Gudino, who is also in ad sales and strategic account management. That’s not to mention all the people at Summit Media Group who provide new media, custom content and Web site support.

World events

This issue is devoted to safety, and that topic could not have been more timely. While I’m writing this, operators and engineers are valiantly struggling to bring the Fukushima nuclear reactor under control in Japan. That country is suffering through the recovery from a devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami. I regard the Fukushima people as heroes of process control for working in dangerous conditions to restore a quake-damaged nuclear reactor.

We have written much about planning for safety and developing a safety culture. Despite the finger-pointing and second-guessing that the mainstream media loves to promote, we all know that you can’t build a perfectly safe system that anticipates every possible contingency. Actually, if you could, you couldn’t afford it. Fukushima was designed to withstand an earthquake larger than usually experienced, but this one was huge—reportedly a 9.0 on the Richter scale. And the design actually performed well. The real problem was that primary power was knocked out; then, backup generators were damaged and rendered unusable. Ironically, even though the reactors produce electric power, it was loss of power that caused cooling pumps to fail, resulting in overheating.

Safety awareness can never waver. All manner of safeties can be designed into a system, but it all goes for naught unless the culture of a plant puts safety first. The right training assures that personnel will react properly and expeditiously during an incident.

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